Wednesday, November 29, 2017

[Gluten-Free] Sweet and Spicy Pretzels

Every once in a while, a flavor combination hits me and I can't let it go. I crave it. I dream about it. I got to have it. And that's exactly what happened when I discovered the amazing combination of brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne pepper. I know what you're thinking..."Is she crazy??" Let me tell you, the only crazy thing about this flavor combination is how crazy good it is. Something about the sweet and savory and spicy flavors all perfectly mixed together.... it's truly addicting.

I first discovered this powerful explosion of flavors when I was trying to conjure up a delicious trail mix for us to bring to our football tailgates. Patrick loves trail mix. His family does too. They bring it on every beach vacation or trip we've ever been on. And they always get the spiciest one! One year during a family beach trip, I made this trail mix. I still wasn't sure how they would react to the new dish, so I just slyly placed it on the coffee table to see what would happen. 20 minutes later... it was gone. GONE. I definitely had a winning flavor combination on my hands!

For the last five years I've been making that same delicious trail mix. I've made it for Christmas gifts, tailgates, and even baby showers. It never gets old! But I wanted to change it up a bit. Oh I wouldn't dare mess with the flavor, but I thought maybe instead of nuts, how about gluten-free pretzels! It would make the snack more snackable.

When Patrick got wind of this dramatic change to our trail mix status quo, he said "Are you crazy? It's perfect just the way it is." Crazy huh? I thought to myself, that's exactly what I'm looking for! A couple days later, Patrick was standing in our kitchen with a big smile on his face and a fist-full of Sweet and Spicy Pretzels saying, "I'm so glad you didn't listen to me."

.....okay, maybe those weren't his exact words, but trust me, he was thinking it :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Easiest Asparagus and Bacon Bake

I know you. You're looking for an easy, foolproof side dish for the holidays. Something simple to make but has great flavor. Oh and it would be nice if you could prep it ahead. Yeah, I know the feeling. I love cooking and baking for the holidays. There's nothing quite like it! But there comes a time in the menu planning when you just need a culinary home run that only requires one eye on the ball.

Well, here it is.

A big ham sandwich pitch right over the middle of the plate.

This dish is a total crowd pleaser. You can't go wrong with bacon, garlic and asparagus all baked together. It's savory. It's full of flavor. It's delicious. This is a great prep ahead dish and it reheats nicely. And if you prefer green beans to asparagus, just substitute one for one. So take a swing. Add this dish to your holiday menu and enjoy that victorious stroll around the bases. Enjoy!

The Easiest Asparagus and Bacon Bake
gluten free ~ dairy free

The combination of salty bacon and savory garlic makes the roasted asparagus shine (you can also substitute trimmed green beans). It’s a no-fuss recipe that’s sure to impress your holiday guests.

Serves 4-6


2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 slices bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
5 sprigs fresh thyme


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish, stir together the asparagus, bacon, garlic, peas, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the thyme sprigs on top and place in the oven.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the asparagus is fork tender and the bacon is fully cooked. Remove thyme stems and stir before serving. Serve warm.

*Make-Ahead Tip: Trim the asparagus and cut the bacon the day before. Store separately in the fridge until ready to assemble the dish.

recipe courtesy:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Potato and Parsnip Mash

photo by Angela Sackett

Okay before we move on with this post, I have to confess something. I love parsnips. Like, I love them. Is that weird? 10 years ago I had no idea what a parsnip was. But now, I seriously buy parsnips once a week at the grocery store. No matter what they always make their way into my weekly menu. This week I'm using them instead of potatoes to accompany a divine slow cooker pot roast (yum!). Parsnips look like white carrots but they have this earthy spiciness that is unlike any other vegetable. Man, they're so good.

Of course I want to share my love of parsnips with everyone and anyone. So naturally I snuck them into a classic Thanksgiving dish. Mashed potatoes lend itself to all sorts of add-ins like garlic, rosemary, parmesan, etc. But I decided to add parsnips... and brown butter. Which basically catapults mashed potatoes into awesomeness. I dare you to try this and not fall in love parsnips. Oh, and serve it with the most delicious (make ahead) marsala gravy. BOOM.

Potato and Parsnip Mash
Swap out your normal mashed potatoes for this delectable mash. Parsnips look like white carrots but are earthy and slightly sweet. Mix them together with creamy potatoes and my secret ingredient of browned butter, and you’ve got one amazing holiday side.

Serves 5-6


2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾–inch chunks
1 pound parsnips, peeled, trimmed, and cut into ½-inch chunks
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2½ teaspoons salt, separated
¾ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons chopped chives, separated
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon black pepper


Place the potatoes, parsnips, and garlic in a large stockpot. Fill with water until the potatoes are covered and the parsnip pieces just begin to float. (If you add too much water the vegetables can come out a little under-salted.) Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water and stir. Bring to boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat to medium. Keep at a simmer for about 30-35 minutes or until very fork tender (check both potatoes and parsnips). Drain the potatoes, parsnips, and garlic and return back to the large pot. Off the heat, use a hand mixer and blend until smooth. Place a lid on top and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add the warm milk to the potato mixture and blend until smooth. Mix in 1 tablespoon of chives. Place the lid back on top.

Melt the butter in a small (8-inch) sauté pan over medium-low heat. Cook until slightly foamy and the milk solids in the pan turn golden brown, stirring often. This should take about 6-8 minutes. If it starts to splatter, stir and turn the heat down to low. Watch it carefully because the milk solids will turn black very quickly!

Add the browned butter, the pepper, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt into the potato puree. Blend until everything is combined. Spoon into a serving dish and top with the remaining tablespoon of chopped chives. Serve warm with Marsala Gravy (recipe follows).

*Make-Ahead Tip: You can make this recipe up to 3 days in advance. When you’re ready to serve, gently reheat it over low heat. If it’s too thick, stir in one tablespoon of milk at a time until it is smooth.

Marsala Gravy
If you are a fan of Chicken Marsala, you are going to love this hearty gravy! And don’t worry about waiting around for turkey drippings, because this delicious gravy doesn’t need it. And what’s even better, it cooks up in less than 20 minutes.

Makes about 1½ cups


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces baby bella or white button mushrooms, stemmed, cut in half, and      
    thinly sliced
2 shallots, minced
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1½ teaspoons arrowroot powder
½ cup sweet Marsala wine
1¼ cups vegetable broth


In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until slightly soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the shallots and salt. Stir together and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the butter and lower the heat to medium. Once the butter is melted stir in the arrowroot. Add the Marsala and stir to combine. Stir in the vegetable broth. Simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until just thickened, stirring occasionally. It’ll thicken even more off the heat. Serve hot.

*Make-Ahead Tip: Make the gravy a day ahead and gently reheat it when you’re ready to serve. Thin it out with a couple teaspoons of Marsala, if needed.

Recipes courtesy:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Chorizo Mac and Cheese

photo by Angela Sackett

I know there is this magical thing that happens when cheese and pasta come together but I have a confession to make... I never liked it as a kid. Even now, I can't stomach just the normal Mac 'n Cheese from a box. I know, it's horrible. Doesn't every kid on the planet like it? I mean it's on every children's menu in the United States and people have such fond memories of it. I just could never do it. 

But one year our friend Tony brought a huge homemade Mac n' Cheese casserole to our Thanksgiving In July party. Oh honey, that pan went so fast. You blinked it was gonnnnnne. I couldn't believe it. People went crazy for it! I was so impressed. There was this whole population of Mac n' Cheese lovers that I wasn't a part of. I had to get in. So I decided to make a Mac n' Cheese recipe that was so delicious that even a non-Mac n' Cheese lover like me would love. 

¡Hola Chorizo!

photo by Angela Sackett

Look, if you're wondering how to up the ante on any savory dish. Just add sausage or bacon or chorizo. You just can't go wrong. And let me tell you there is so much going right in this dish. It's perfect for Thanksgiving or honestly any time of the year. AND YOU CAN MAKE IT AHEAD. Which is just so attractive when it comes to reading a recipe, wouldn't you agree? Oh, and if you're not gluten free, just use regular pasta. But I'm telling you, no one is going to know it's gluten free!

Here's to Mac n' Cheese lovers everywhere! 

[Gluten-Free] Chorizo Mac and Cheese
Mac n' Cheese is comfort food at it's finest. My version features three different cheeses and zesty chorizo sausage. Plus, a reliable technique to keep your gluten-free pasta away from the “mush-zone.”

Serves 6-8


1 pound gluten-free elbow macaroni or fusilli
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Spanish cured chorizo, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons coconut oil
¼ cup arrowroot powder
2 cups (8 ounces) freshly grated extra-sharp white cheddar
2 cups (8 ounces) freshly grated extra-sharp yellow cheddar
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Gruyere
3 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup chopped chives


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add 2 large pinches of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Add the pasta and stir. Cook pasta 1-2 minutes less than package directions. You want it to be al dente because it will cook a little more in the oven. Drain well. Then rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, pour the milk into a medium saucepan and gently bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook until the edges begin to crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Remove chorizo with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes, stirring often. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the butter and coconut oil. Once the butter is melted, turn the heat down to medium-low and slowly whisk in the arrowroot powder. Cook for 1 minute. While whisking add in the hot milk. Cook until smooth and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Off the heat, stir in the white cheddar, yellow cheddar, Gruyere, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Once the cheese is melted, add the cooked pasta and chorizo. Stir well. Pour into the greased baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, or until hot and the sauce is bubbling. Top with chopped chives.

*Make-Ahead Tip: This recipe can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Make the entire recipe but don’t bake it. Cover and keep in the fridge until ready to bake. Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking. Bake until heated through and the sauce is bubbling, about 25-35 minutes. Top with chives.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls

Okay seriously, how is it already the middle of October? I'm not quite sure how that happened. It's crazy! I feel like the time is going so fast! This is the calm before the wonderful storm we all call the holidays. And every year around this time I always try to slow down and savor the fleeting moments of fall. Of course, fall is a relative term since it's still 90 degrees here. Thank goodness for pumpkin spice coffee. At least I can be fall-like in the morning... In the air conditioning....

When I was brainstorming with dessert ideas for this time of year, I found myself wanting something else besides the apple and pumpkin classics. Don't get me wrong, I love me a good apple tart or sweet pumpkin pie but I wanted something a little different. Something chocolate. With peanut butter. Oh, and salty pretzels for crunch. I wanted to something where you don't need a spatula or a knife to serve. That way, you could easily serve them at a party or give them as gifts. Every one could use a delicious recipe like this right on the cusp of holiday season. And let me tell you, these beauties are a HIT! My family and friends go crazy for them and I promise you, yours will too! 

Photos by the wonderful Angela Sackett

Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls

These have all the classic flavors of chocolate peanut butter cups but with the added crunchy texture of salty pretzels. These make great holiday gifts for all your family and friends. But let's be honest, they're great any time of year!

Makes 25-30 treats


1¾ cups gluten-free pretzels*
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons coconut oil, separated
1¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup peanut butter chips


Place pretzels in a large zip-top bag and use a wooden spoon or spatula to crush the pretzels into small pieces but not crumbs. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together peanut butter and 3 tablespoons coconut oil until smooth. Add the sugar in 2 parts, stirring to combine. It takes a little force. You can also use your hands to knead it together until it becomes smooth. Fold in the crushed pretzels. Use a melon baller or teaspoon measure to scoop the mixture. Roll each scoop in your hands and shape into balls. Place each on a baking sheet or large plate lined with parchment paper. Keep in the freezer until slightly firm, about 25-30 minutes.

Fill a small saucepan with a little water and bring to a simmer. Place the chocolate chips into a small, heat-proof bowl and place on top of the saucepan until the chocolate is melted, stirring often, about 3-5 minutes. Let it cool slightly. Remove peanut butter balls from the freezer and dip each into the cooled chocolate. Allow excess to drip off (using a fork helps). Place on a different parchment-lined pan or plate. If they get too soft to work with, place the peanut butter balls back in the freezer to harden slightly, then dip in chocolate. Let them stand at room temperature for 1 hour or until just slightly set.

Place the peanut butter chips and the remaining 2 teaspoons of coconut oil in a small, heat-proof bowl. Place over a saucepan with simmering water until melted and smooth, stirring often, about 3-5 minutes. Use a spoon to lightly drizzle over the chocolate. Let them sit overnight to set, or you can place them in the fridge for at least 15 minutes until set and crisp.

Make-Ahead Tip: Make these up to 3 days ahead of time. Just make sure you don’t eat them all before your party!

*I love the Glutino gluten-free pretzels. You can totally substitute regular pretzels if you are not worried about the gluten.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sparkling Sidecar

When it comes to summer cocktails, I always crave something light and refreshing. Something that's served cold with just a hint of sweetness. Oh, and I also want it to be easy to make. That's a definite. What's the point in having a lazy summer day if it can't be lazy!

My best friends know that I am a huge supporter of sparkling Rosé during the summer. Okay, really anytime. It's so light, crisp, and slightly sweet. But sometimes you want something with a little more "oomph." When I started coming up with summer drink ideas, I couldn't get a Sidecar cocktail out of my mind. It's a drink Patrick and I served at our annual "Prohibition Party." We served big pitchers of vintage cocktails like the Bee's Knees, Mint Julep, and Old Fashioned. But my personal favorite is always the Sidecar.

The Sidecar is made with cognac, triple sec, and lemon juice. Those Prohibition people were serious! It's tart, slightly sweet, and really refreshing. But this bold cocktail needed a lighter note for a hot summer day. Then I thought, champagne! Perfect! But the proportions had to be just right. I could tell this was going to be a messy job. I knew exactly who to call...

When I want an amazing drink, I call this man. Patrick can make a mean cocktail. Plus, he's been my partner in crime for more than 14 years now. When I say "Lets throw a 1920's party" he says "let me grab my hat and a cocktail shaker." He is my best taste-tester and my best pal. Okay, I guess I'm getting sentimental. Our 11th wedding anniversary is in a couple weeks. 11th. I seriously can't believe it. One night, we tested this cocktail until it was just perfect. (It's a tough job but someone has to do it!) I know it won't disappoint. 

Happy Summer y'all!

Sparkling Sidecar

Makes 4 drinks

1 cup cognac
½ cup triple sec
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup champagne or sparkling white wine, chilled
Maraschino cherries, for garnish

Pour cognac, triple sec, and lemon juice in a martini shaker filled with ice.  Shake for 30 seconds.

Pour champagne into the pitcher.  Then add the cognac mixture.  Stir until just combined.  Garnish glasses with maraschino cherries.
photos taken by Angela and Anna Sackett

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bread Bar

Everyone has their own kitchen quirks. I realized this the other day when my friends were talking about their eggs in the fridge. The discussion began after our friend Brooke posed the question, "Does anyone rearrange eggs in the carton or is that just me?" Turns out, she was the only one in our group but I know she can't be the only one who does it. But who knew? Seriously, I've known the girl for more than 20 years and had no idea! That's quirky.

Wait, I don't even keep my eggs in a carton...

I keep them in a big bowl in the fridge. Hmmm. Now, that's quirky.

And I always prep the coffee the night before. Always. I guess that's quirky too.

I'm telling you, kitchen quirks. Everyone's got them.

What do all these quirky habits have to do with a bread bar? Well, when it comes to weekend mornings, one of my favorite things to do is to relax on the couch with a nice cup of coffee. And thanks to my quirky kitchen habit of prepping it the night before, coffee is a cinch to make. Ah, I can hear the couch calling my name...

Oh wait. Breakfast! Now, I love to make pancakes and bacon and eggs or muffins or biscotti, especially on the weekends. But sometimes, I just want the coffee. On the couch. Mmmmm. That's where the bread bar comes in. It's such a fun and delicious breakfast but I literally can throw it together in 5 minutes. Patrick and Dallas both love it!

The Bread Bar can be whatever you want. I toast the bread and when it's nice and hot I rub a garlic clove over each piece. My mom used to make garlic toast like that all the time. Then comes the toppings: I always have avocados in the house. Smash one up and mix it with salt and olive oil. Chop up a tomato and add salt and olive oil. And make a dipping oil with olive oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Put it all out the table and grab your coffee.

If you have a toddler maybe grab a napkin too... Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lemon-Almond Biscotti

What if someone asked you,
"Would you like a cookie for breakfast?"
You might have a confused look on your face. Sounds like a no-brainer. But for real, a cookie for breakfast? Definitely sounds like a trick.

But if you say, (in an Italian accent)
"Buongiorno! Vuoi biscotti per la colazione?"
Now that sounds delicious. Mmmmmm. 
Biscotti. Colazione.
Ah. Leave it to the Italians to make a cookie for breakfast sound so sophisticated.

But just because biscotti sounds like a sophisticated food doesn't mean you have to be fancy. Case in point- the photo above. What was it that Julia Child said? "If you're alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always pick it up. Who's going to know?"

Except here it's: "You can always eat biscotti in the kitchen without pants on. Who's going to know?"

Hmmm, who's going to know? Your mother. With an iphone. Who will post it on a blog. 
Oh brother. I can't help myself. Just look at those curls!

Anyway, back to biscotti!
I'm always surprised when I meet someone who has no idea what it is. "Biscotti" translated into English is literally "Cookies" but they're so much more than that. They're these crumbly slices of goodness that are slightly sweet and they become the perfect consistency when you dunk them in coffee. Heaven.

I've tried lots of biscotti recipes. Some are too hard. Some are too dense. Some are too crumbly. These Lemon-Almond biscotti are just right. And instead of using only refined sugar, I use a combo of brown sugar, coconut sugar and raw cane sugar. Now I really don't feel guilty about a cookie for breakfast. This recipe makes a lot of biscotti, but they keep really well in an airtight container. I just stick them in a big cookie jar and they last for more than a week! Buon appetito!

Lemon-Almond Biscotti

This biscotti is soooo good! The cookies are baked twice. A lot of times I will do the first round of baking at night and finish it off in the morning. My family and friends love when I make this recipe because it makes a lot!

Makes 25 biscotti

1/3 cup sliced almonds
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup coconut sugar
¼ cup raw cane sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ tablespoon of grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
3 cups Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten-free baking flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 1/3 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the sliced almonds in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Stir almost constantly for 2-4 minutes, until the almonds are slightly toasted. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer place the butter, brown sugar, coconut sugar, and raw cane sugar. Mix on medium speed with a paddle attachment. Mix until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile crack two eggs and a separated egg yolk into a small bowl. Save the egg white for later. With the mixer on low, add the 2 whole eggs, the single egg yolk, the vanilla, almond extract, and the lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the dry mixture slowly until just combined. Then add the toasted almonds until evenly distributed. Give it one big stir with a rubber spatula and then dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface.

Roll the dough into a ball and cut in half. Roll each piece into a log about 11 inches long by 2 inches wide. Place both logs a few inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet.

Beat the reserved egg white for about 15 seconds. Brush the logs with the egg white and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of raw cane sugar. Place the rest of the egg white in an airtight container in the fridge. Bake the logs for 45 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool for 45 minutes or overnight. (If you decide to bake in the morning, cover the logs with foil)

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Slice the log in ½ inch thick slices at a slight angle. It will be quite crumbly, that’s ok! It helps to squeeze the log together with your hand as you slice. Place the slices on a sheet pan with parchment paper (it is ok to reuse the parchment from the first baking). Brush the slices with the reserved egg white. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until browned.

Biscotti will keep in an airtight container for a whole week. Enjoy!